iNDIES, iNTERNATIONAL, & THE uNDERGROUND – 03.24.2019: The Political Quandary of Ring of Honor

Ring of Honor would rather not be involved in politics and concentrate on the wrestling product. David Starr disrupted that when he put the wrestling company and its owner on blast.

By Michael Melchor, Executive Editor


We interrupt our WrestleMania Week Primer to touch on something that happened this week that speaks to why politics and wrestling don’t mix like they used to. It started with a discussion on Facebook about David Starr’s promo regarding his upcoming match with Jay Lethal for the Ring of Honor World Championship – and how Ring of Honor squelched it. For those that need to catch up, here is the story that started the discussion. It’s not like the details aren’t out there because just about everyone has covered the story. Hell, it even made Newsweek – because not only is wrestling (WWE and otherwise) popular enough to warrant mainstream coverage nowadays, but that anything even remotely political is going to get some play in media circles simply because it’s the climate we find ourselves in.   Here is the promo itself, which should be on David Starr’s social media but, instead, was preserved by Pro Wrestling Sheet:  

The reason Pro Wrestling Sheet has the video up instead of David Starr? Is because, after the video was posted by Starr, he was asked to take it down:  

Note the statement says that the “powers that be” – neither Ring of Honor not Sinclair Broadcasting is specifically mentioned – asked Starr to remove the video. Uproxx has claimed that “IPWA [Israeli Pro Wrestling Association, the company hosting the “Passover Bash” event in Netanya on April 21 at which David STarr is comparing against Jay Lethal for the Ring of Honor World Championship] owner Gery Roif stated that ‘Sinclair forced them to take [the video] down in an act of censorship.’” However, in the Jerusalem Post article linked to for citation, there isn’t even a mention of IPWA owner Gery Roif, let alone a quote from him. Another important point that hasn’t stopped people in the media and elsewhere from saying that Starr was “censored.” A popular argument in similar situations have seen people defending companies exercising their right to have some messages squelched, claiming that it’s only censorship if the government does it. Either it’s time to retire that double-standard or recognize when companies do it, but that’s another discussion for another time. The fact is, corporations can also engage in censorship. And that looks to be exactly what happened to David Starr. But what is still unknown, despite claims to the contrary, is who did the censoring. Knowing exactly who asked David Starr to take down the video is key. If it was indeed SInclair Broadcasting, that would make a lot of sense given their political history. But what if it wasn’t? To quote my response in the aforementioned Facebook discussion about all of this:

To play devil’s advocate for a moment. I’m not taking a side here. I saw the promo and I think it was awesome stuff from David Starr, who’s one of the best out there right now and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if AEW scooped him up with the quickness. BUT. The story did mention that RoH has done all it can to stay away from the politics that its parent company is known for. I’m not defending or condemning Ring of Honor’s decision, but what I would love to know: did RoH have him pull the promo because Sinclair made them – or did they do it because their name got dragged into a political discussion that they want no part of?

So what if Ring of Honor, being put in a bad position, were the ones that asked Starr to take it down? It’s well known that Sinclair initially purchased the wrestling company to have a television product they can air on their stations and that there is little other involvement that the parent company has with its child property. For all intents and purposes, Ring of Honor is on its own. That much has even been said outright by Sinclair Broadcast CEO Chris Ripley: “So, look I think saying that we’ve invested a lot of money is maybe a slight mischaracterization,” Ripley said. “Beyond Tennis, we really haven’t spent significant dollars on content and Ring of Honor, I think, we bought for a couple hundred thousand dollars.” It’s very possible that Sinclair actually did get involved in Ring of Honor’s business for once when Starr’s promo spread like wildfire and asked RoH to play “bad cop.” But then, Ring of Honor COO Joe Koff has adamantly stated on several occasions that Ring Of Honor is completely autonomous and separate from the news or other divisions of Sinclair. In other words, Ring of Honor would rather not be involved in politics and concentrate on the wrestling product. And Starr disrupted that when he put the wrestling and the parent companies on blast. Since my own post on Facebook when I noted that this was Ring of Honor’s decision, it occurs to me that, after researching for this piece we don’t know who made the call. And we may never know. The fact is, someone asked Starr to take down a video in which he verbally eviscerated the promotion that hosts the world championship he is wrestling for on Easter Sunday and the company that owns it. It’s also very possible that the reaction to his video was foreseen by Starr as a way to promote the match in and of itself. The video falls very well in line with Starr’s past political stances and his beliefs as a progressive, liberal Jewish man. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t smart enough to realize that poking the bear would pale in comparison to the reaction from said bear once it was poked. Many more people now know about David Starr’s match in Israel against Jay Lethal than had before. And, as a bonus, Starr now has a new t-shirt to sell (which went up for sale very quickly after the controversy erupted), with half of the proceeds going to charity:

One way or another, the outrage of Starr’s censorship by Sinclair Broadcasting Company by Ring of Honor put a wrestling company that would rather not focus on politics into a tough political situation. It has also brought attention to a match – and one of its participants – that may not have gotten it prior to this happening but maybe should have to begin with.

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